Born Madonna Louise Ciccone, August 16, 1958, in Bay City, MI .
Madonna's career began as another cute blonde singer making electronic dance music in the 80s. Then she began to wield her amazing talent--for business and marketing as well as music--and wound up, along with Michael Jackson, the biggest pop star since Elvis Presley. Her early hits were innocent throwaways ("Everybody," "Holiday"), promoted by titillating videos of a scantily clad Madonna dancing hither and yon. She even parlayed her videocentricity into a co-starring role in the hit film "Desperately Seeking Susan." But once she lured the masses, Madonna began spewing messages. With every record she changed costumes and, like David Bowie in the early 70s, personas. MTV followed her every move, whether she was challenging moral conventions in "Papa Don't Preach," sexual mores in "Like a Virgin" or religious sensibilities with "Like a Prayer." (She gained a quick foothold in the tabloids, too, by marrying and quickly divorcing hot-tempered actor Sean Penn, then having affairs with--depending who you believe--Warren Beatty, and basketball players Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman.) Her videos, at the time, were consistently more outrageous than her songs, which remained impeccably crafted and well-sung dance music. As she grew older, Madonna turned into a self-contained entertainment industry, producing a tour documentary called "Truth or Dare" and a photo book called "Sex" that shocked millions--though maybe more for the naked pictures of Vanilla Ice than anything else. She began her own label, Maverick, which scored hits with Candlebox and Alanis Morrissette. Unlike her contemporaries, Prince and Michael Jackson, Madonna has always managed to stay ahead of the pop curve--embracing gay and club cultures so as to be a leader in bringing them to the mainstream, rather than a follow. In 1996, she starred in the film version of "Evita" and decided to have a baby--though not to marry again.